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Behind the Sales

Greg Tanner of Aaron’s Rents


We've heard of earnings claims being presented to a prospect via a cocktail napkin, but a résumé?

Douglas Kushell, president of Franchise Search, was more than a little surprised when he came across Greg Tanner's resume on the fax machine.  Never mind that most resumes are received via e-mail, this one looked like the original had been written on the back of a cocktail napkin.

Intrigued, Kushell called Tanner who verified that, yes, his extensive franchise sales experience had been hastily sketched out on a cocktail napkin. And, no he didn't have time to send him a more professional resume -- he was too busy selling franchises.

Greg Tanner

Greg Tanner enjoys work. Ask him about his hours away from work and he gets a little defensive. He's one of those lucky people who loves what he's doing 9 to 5.

Kushell remembers Tanner instructing him to get him "in front of a company that meets my career objectives and I guarantee that I'll walk away with the job offer."

Kushell credits Tanner's uncanny knack at landing the job with his equally uncanny ability to read what the franchisor needs and then to tailor his presentation to highlight his experience that meets that criteria. His Southern charm, with a hint of mischievousness, also doesn't hurt.Unorthodox, to say the least, but Kushell, who has more than 25 years in the executive search business, found that Tanner was true to his word. Whenever Tanner interviewed for the job, he indeed, got the offer. "It's as close to a slam dunk as you can get," Kushell says.

Tanner dismisses the old adage that warns employers off job-hoppers. Moving around is what good franchise sales people do, Tanner contends. "If you live long enough in this business, you've been with everyone," he says. "People move around, they need to change. You go to a new company and your old ideas become new ideas to them."

After living in Atlanta for most of his life, Tanner reluctantly relocated to New Jersey in the early '80s. "We had three little babies and I sat in the car and cried," Tanner says about the move. But, as it turned out, the North was the best thing for his career. By working in the culturally rich cities of New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., he was exposed to ideas, history and successful people he could only have met in those locales and at that time in his life. But at the time he didn't appreciate it.  "I was like a hamster," he drawls, "All it does all day long is try to get out of the cage." When he returned to Atlanta four years later,  he had learned some valuable lessons about getting out of your comfort zone.

He's now back with Aaron Rents, where he supervises a sales team of six. Aaron's Rents, he says, is the best-kept secret in franchising. Most people don't even know it's a franchise, he says, and they're amazed Aaron's has 1,500 locations. "We've never had a store fail, no franchisee litigation and the franchisees are happy," he boasts.

Their average investor has a net worth of $6 million, and is buying a business, not a job.
 His advice to franchise sales people: "Stop getting in the same boat with everyone else.

Somebody's got to get on shore." To that end, he's looking outside the mainstream to find unconventional locations. In the last 18 months, he says, he's sold 300 franchises, 80 percent of which are in small towns -- not the normal footprint for an Aaron's. His approach is to blanket a targeted area with PR that Aaron's is coming, and then follow up with advertising.

That way we're not going in as a stranger," he says. "We've planted that subliminal message."
His team follows up with the chambers of commerce to locate the movers and shakers and business people who might be interested in their type of business investment.

All work, limited play

Tanner tried retirement, but found it wasn't for him. A golf course is OK to live on, but not to play on every day. "You take me out of this environment (franchise sales) and I become boring," he quips. "I like a lot of things, but I get to do a lot of stuff with Aaron's...If you hate to come to work every day, that would be awful."

Take notes. Here's Tanner's take on sales:

Advice to someone just going into franchise sales: Have patience; it's hard to buy a business from a young person. Attend everything affiliated with franchising. Develop what I call, 'being there' business.

Advice to experienced franchise sales pros: Make friends with every sale you make and keep in touch. "When I'm in a city, I pull out my little black book and call the person I sold a franchise to there," he says. (This philosophy also ensures you only offer someone a franchise that's a fit. "If you sell someone something that's not a fit, it will haunt you," he says. "You've affected someone's life out there.")

Advice to franchisors: There's not enough new people coming into this business, (and the "gray-hair, knee-replacement crowd isn't going to last forever, he says.) Take one person and cultivate him or her; it takes time to build momentum. Encourage them to stay with it. Tip on honing your sales pitch: Find out what's unique in your franchise, and build a story, not a pitch.


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